News / Calgary

Medical examiner tells Calgary woman's trial seven-year-old boy died of 'overwhelming sepsis'

A seven-year-old boy who was given holistic remedies by his mother before he died from massive organ failure, the woman's trial heard Tuesday.

CALGARY — A seven-year-old boy who was given holistic remedies by his mother before he died from massive organ failure could have been saved with a simple antibiotic, the woman's trial heard Tuesday.

Tamara Lovett, 47, is charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life and with criminal negligence causing the boy's death. Ryan Alexander Lovett died in March 2013 after getting a strep infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days.

Ryan was treated with dandelion tea and oil of oregano before he went into convulsions and his mother called 911. He was pronounced dead in a Calgary hospital.

Dr. Taj Jadavji, an expert on microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary, was asked to review the case and the autopsy report on behalf of the Crown.

He said group A streptococcus is a fairly common bacterial infection that is "a treatable condition with antibiotics."

Jadavji said strep can take on more serious forms including flesh-eating disease and toxic shock syndrome, but he said Ryan's life likely could have been saved.

"Group A strep is a bacteria and easily treated with ... penicillin," he said. "You could have prevented the death of this child if this child had been seen by a physician."

Lovett's lawyer, Alain Hepner, asked Jadavji what he knew about natural medicines and took exception to a passage from the doctor's report which said: "Ryan's mother did not recognize how sick he was and she did not provide him with the adequate care."

Jadavji said Lovett didn't realize her son was sick, even though he lost 10 pounds over two weeks and was showing signs of getting worse.

"Some people who really do not believe in medication will not recognize those things. They will think dandelion tea will help him to cure that. They will think oregano oil will cure that. They wait ... (until) it is too late," Jadavji said.

"They can believe lots of things. We are living in the real world."

Alberta's acting chief medical examiner testified that her autopsy found the boy's body full of group A strep, which had caused most of his major organs to deteriorate.

"Every organ in the body was starting to fail," said Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim. "The organs that normally produce the immune response of the body appeared exhausted from having to counter an infection."

Otherwise, Brooks-Lim said, Ryan appeared to be a reasonably healthy child. There were no signs of abuse, and his height and weight were considered normal.

She said it is clear that the boy's health didn't take a turn for the worse overnight.

"This was not something that occurred within minutes or hours."

Brooks-Lim said there were signs of decomposition — cells dying —in all of Ryan's major organs.

Dr. Jen D'Mello was working in the emergency room at Alberta Children's Hospital when the boy was brought in on March 2, 2013. She said he was unresponsive and his pupils were fixed and dilated.

"He certainly was already dead at the time he arrived in the emergency department and was cold to the touch," she told court.

"I thought it was very unlikely that we would be able to revive him from the time that he arrived. Any time that a child is arriving without any signs of life, (there) is a real low probability that we will revive them."

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